By Michaela Doyle

As the visual arts scene slowly increases its scope in DC, Michael Berman, owner of CAOS on F, is doing his part to ensure that it thrives. After graduating from the University of Maryland with a fine arts degree, Berman decided to stay in DC. Unlike many of his contemporaries, DC was not just an interim stop for him; "I fell into it that I was going to be an artist and make a go of it here and not necessarily say, 'well, I'm going to head to New York, this is just a stopping point." Involved in city planning and developing new studio spaces, Berman has been devoted to being an artist in DC and is working to see that it flourishes as a place for new artists to set down roots.
Berman has always thought downtown was one of the best places for artists to be located. Right out of college, Berman has his own studio downtown n F Street. "At the time in the '90s, [the area] was wide open. You could do it here. There was cheap space. You could do your own thing and make something happen," said Berman. Although it was zoned as an arts district, the F Street area around Penn Quarter has since seen many galleries and studios forced out. With the introduction of street festivals and events, such as ARts on Foot, the area's visual arts scene is seeing a gradual renaissance.
Michael Berman recently opened his studio space, F St I Arts, and launched his gallery, fondly known as CAOS on F, this past September with his cofounder, Matthew Falls. The building's developer had specially set aside the space for a working arts area and leased it to Berman's organization, the Downtown Arts Coalition. Berman sublets the space to individual artists. In fact five of the six spaces are rented to artists who were originally on F Street with him before they left years ago. CAOS on F is one of the first studios to come back.

The name CAOS on F started as an acronym for "Coalition of Artists on the Shore," created by Berman and Falls. They met on the Eastern Shore, and they started doing shows there under that name, but DC is now the hub, and the acronym has stuck with them. With its six studios in 7,000 square feet of space, the gallery is beautiful, including tall ceilings, exposed brick walls and plenty of light coming through the large windows at the front, not to mention the art. Berman's own art shows his ability to create versatile pieces that engage both himself and his viewers. "Style is less important than how to convey what you're trying to [show]," said Berman. He works well with many different genres; however his paintings of bodies in various poses really commanded attention with their passionate colors and clouded shapes. Falls works on furniture. His tables and sheaves are simple yet powerful with conscious imperfections highlighting the beauty of the wood and the piece itself. Also featured at the gallery are ceramics by Joe Hicks and paintings by Quint Marshall. Berman's biggest inspiration is music, his first love, especial jazz. When asked what drew him to art, Berman replied. "I like stepping out of the world, stepping out of reality, stepping out of the day to day ... I do like to break away and explore the mind and explore the unconscious and see what happens ... I'll never stop looking and seeing and think about color and line and composition in the day to day world."